ITU Long Course World Championship: When you can’t tame the wind, tame your mind!

ITU Long Course World Championship: When you can’t tame the wind, tame your mind!

Every race is hard because that’s the point of a race, but there are a lot of variables that can make a race even harder than just the distance, course, or competition you’re up against. I posted on Instagram that this was was one of the toughest race days I had experienced, and during the race I yelled to Matt that this was THE hardest race.  Now that the race is well over (though my legs are still reminding me that race day did happen), it feels like just another race, but in the moment it truly was one of my biggest mental tests!  With that said – any day I get to go race and do something I love is a great day!

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Mandatory bike check-in the night before. Just taping on the ol’ pit stop in case of a flat out on course!

Here’s the rundown on the race:

Leading up to the race I felt ready and excited to do the longer distance (used to doing 1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike, 13.1 mile run – this was a 2.5 mile swim, 74.5 mile bike, and 18.6 mile run).  I read on the race website that the challenge of this race would be the wind, but I’ve been in some pretty fierce wind during training (thank you Florida and St. George training camps!), and thought “how bad can it be?”  Well, PRETTY BAD is the answer to that question.

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It’s not every race they line us all up and introduce us before the swim start.

The swim was an out and back two loop swim.  Going out on the first loop, the swim was choppy but manageable and I felt like I was staying with a good group of girls.  Enter massive waves and whitecaps at the turnaround point.  The swim turned into the kind of swim where you hope to get a mouth of mostly air instead of mostly water when you turn to breath. That’s if you can turn to breath because maybe you’ll actually just get a giant wave to your face and chest and end up 5 feet to the right of where you were just a moment ago.  That kind of swimming :).

I knew the worst thing that could happen was to be completely alone in the hard conditions, so I made sure to keep with the girls I was with.  Coming back through the waves the second time just became comical.  There was one point where we stood up to dolphin dive in a shallow part of water, and a few of us just looked at each other and I think we all quickly verbalized some sort of disbelief of what we were swimming through.  I probably said “OH MY GOSH,” one girl said, “THIS IS THE HARDEST SWIM I HAVE EVER DONE.”  There’s a first for everything, and this was definitely the first time I had spoken with other athletes during the swim portion of the race haha.

By the end of the swim, I already felt mentally exhausted but was determined to reset for the bike.  I know how to bike hard, and was ready to get to work!

Thank GOODNESS for a noticeable tailwind on the way out to the area where we had two 42km loops, but you know what a good tailwind means :).  Despite the ever present wind, I tried to stay focused and push hard on the bike. In addition to the PhD Glyco-Durance I had on my bike, I was grabbing the cold water bottles and drinking and squirting them on me as much as possible.  I knew it was warm and the humidity was going to suck sweat out of me more than maybe I realized, so I hydrated a TON.

I made up good ground during the headwind sections of the bike and was encouraged by the progress I felt like I had made. The second loop flew by pretty quickly, and then I got to the stretch back to transition where it was just a straight road for a long time… straight into a head wind.  I fought hard to get back to transition and tried to keep it together mentally after being in the headwind for what felt like ages.  

If you haven’t run in a swim suit, you should try it :). Pros didn’t have to wear race belt numbers for this race (ITU rules) – a nice bonus!

Starting the three loop run was a huge relief because I knew the wind would be less noticeable, but I was definitely feeling the mental impact of the conditions.  I decided to just be smart.  Being mentally drained and having 30km to run in the heat and humidity – I just wanted to make sure I would finish.  I settled into a pace that I felt like I could maintain, but also that I could decrease as the loops went on.  After a couple miles into the run, my body shook off that “just got off the bike” feeling, and I was in a good rhythm.

I hydrated a TON (I think I mentioned that) – more on this race than ever before.  I took a very quick walk through a lot of the aid stations to make sure I got down the calories and liquids I needed to, and I think that paid off overall.  I got passed on the run, but I also made some passes on the run. I finished 8th and definitely ended the run in a better mental state than when I started it.

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MADE IT!

Thank you to all who offered support and kind words before and after the race!  It means a lot!  A special thank you to John and Shantile Longan and his wonderful family for hosting us while in OKC for the race.  Such good people!

Race takeaways:

-Mind over matter. Control what you can control  This race was a strong reminder to me of how mentally tough I need to be ALWAYS.  Don’t lose focus and don’t waste energy hating the elements.  Just deal with it, cause everyone is out there dealing with it.

-Maybe I should be, but I’m not scared of a full Ironman anymore.

-Racing in a swimsuit makes for quick, convenient porta potty stops.  No regrets wearing my Moench USA swim suit.

-Matt should probably just take over my social media (if you didn’t know, Matt is the new, comedic live tracker for my races – @mcmoench on Instagram, @mmoench on Twitter).

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Fun fact: my legs have never hurt as badly immediately following a race as they did after this race. Can’t imagine what an Ironman feels like!! Matt and I were walking out and I was dying, so we stopped to rest and put the legs up haha.

 

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Matt walking my bike out <3. WE did it!

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